Well, this isnâ€™t an all-new car. The Polo GTI in Mk5 form has been with us since 2011, but given how much Volkswagen have changed on this, the facelift version, it may as well be all-new.
Gone is the 1.4TSI engine that was both supercharged and turbocharged, we now have a much more grown up 1.8TSI motor with 192PS, 12 more than the old car had. It serves up 236lb- ft of toque too, a huge gain on the 180lb ft the old engine offered. Gone too is the DSG gearbox, yes you can still spec it, but a six-speed manual now comes as standard.
So the big question then, does this new Polo live up to its name, is it a proper GTI?
Well itâ€™s quick enoughâ€¦ 0-62mph is dealt with in 6.7 seconds, and the Polo will tramp on to a top speed of 146mph. Off the line it doesnâ€™t actually feel that fast, probably down to the slightly portly 1272kg kerb weight, but once itâ€™s on the move, itâ€™s a very rapid little car with acceleration from 40mph hardly relenting as it approaches three figures.
Itâ€™s great as well when the road gets twisty. The standard fit XDS+ front differential helps to keep understeer and wheel spin to a minimum, meaning you can pitch the Polo into a corner with extreme confidence. The steering is light and doesnâ€™t give much feedback, but with so much grip on offer, itâ€™s very easy to jump into this car and drive it quickly, right from the off.
Despite the kerb weight, it doesnâ€™t feel like a heavy car to drive. It changes direction quickly and with a high level of control, and it seems to â€˜skipâ€™ down the road. Whereas my Golf R feels sure-footed and planted, the Polo feels so much cheekier, like itâ€™s ready to have fun at any time.
It will let you have fun tooâ€¦ One press of the traction button disables the ASR which mainly results in a lot more wheel spin, especially when pulling away from junctions. Press and hold the traction button and not only is the ASR disabled, but the ESC is also put into Sport Mode (but not actually disabled), and with the ESC in Sport you can have a lot of fun. Approach a corner fast, flick the steering and back-off the throttle and the Polo GTI will thrill you with a big helping of lift-off over steer. Itâ€™s a very rewarding chassis, if set up slightly on the safer side of fun, but 99% of the time, that is in truth where you want it to be.
What about that new engine then? Well, honestly, it is a masterpiece. This is the engine the Polo GTI should have had back in 2011. It manages to pull off a great trick in that it doesnâ€™t feel turbocharged. Traditionally, turbo engines deliver a massive slug of power after a moment of lag, and then run out of puff higher up the rev range. The 1.8TSI unit in this Polo pulls smoothly all through the rev range with no noticeable peaks and troughs, and itâ€™ll keenly chase on right up to the rev limiter. It sounds pretty good too, although if Iâ€™m being picky, I think it could do with a slightly rortier exhaust note, the cabin on the Polo is so well insulated you can barely hear the twin tail pipes.
Inside, itâ€™s unmistakably a GTI. The tartan cloth seats offer great support and really look the part harking back to the original Mk1 Golf, and the leather trimmed GTI steering wheel with its red stitching feels like an extremely classy fixture. The rest of the interior is very Volkswagen, simple, clear and well crafted, with some nice touches.
The Polo GTI doesnâ€™t come with overwhelming levels of standard kit, but itâ€™s got everything you need. Thereâ€™s manual air conditioning, a colour centre touch screen with DAB radio, Bluetooth, steering wheel controls for the stereo and on board computer, and the centre console houses a USB socket for connecting your phone or music device. The standard fit LED headlamps are great at night, and help inspire confidence on dark country lanes.
Of course, you can take to the options list and add in climate control, cruise control, sat nav, folding mirrors, a sun roof, and just about anything else you fancy. Thereâ€™s a Sport Performance Kit too which includes Dynamic Chassis Control at Â£245, but in reality, the standard setup is fine, so save your Â£245 for a few tanks full of petrol. If youâ€™re going to spec the 7-speed DSG gearbox though, you will also need the Sport Kit, as this liberates the full 236lb-ft of torque from the engine, otherwise DSG cars have to make do with 184lb-ft.
Personally, aside from the Winter Pack at Â£360 (which includes heated seats) I donâ€™t think I would add anythingâ€¦ this is a purists GTI, it is best enjoyed straight up, as it comes.
Now then, time to get serious. During the five days I had this car for, I received a number of messages from car folk asking the big question... â€œIs it the new MK1 GTI?â€
Well, no, itâ€™s not. The truth being that as good as this Polo GTI is, no modern cars with power steering, huge levels of safety kit affecting kerb weights, and modern emissions regulations to meet will get close to those 80s hatch backs in terms of raw feel.
What this Polo GTI does show though is that the old GTI formula still works. 1.8 litre engine, compact dimensions, simple manual gearbox, focus on driving appeal rather than gadgets, and the end result canâ€™t fail.
At the end of my five days, I was sad to see the Polo go.
I had let it get under my skinâ€¦ it is a proper GTI.
We'd like to thank Peter Cooper Volkswagen for the loan of their Polo GTI demonstrator for our road test, and in particular Andy Gray for his help.
Peter Cooper Volkswagen are an independently-owned group of Volkswagen dealerships serving the South Coast, they are located in Southampton, Portsmouth, Hedge End and Chichester.
You can find out more, and contact your nearest Peter Cooper dealership through their website: http://www.petercoopergroup.co.uk/
IT IS NOT OFTEN that we devote so much space in one issue to a specific model within the VW range, but weâ€™ve made an exception for the Golf 7R, such is the current level of interest in this latest â€˜hot hatchâ€™.
I can still clearly remember when the previous Golf R came out, the Mk 6, back in late 2009, with a mere four-cylinder 2.0 turbo engine replacing the previous 3.2 V6, but following the first road test we realised that it was not only faster but more fuel-efficient, it handled better without the weight of that V6 hanging out front, and it was technically a much better car all round.
And now we have the new 7R, so much better than the 6R because it is based on the MQB chassis. As many owners â€“ some featured in our special issue â€“ will attest, it really is an amazing all-rounder; not only a comfortable, practical family hack but also capable of blowing away all but the most severe of supercars. And, if it isnâ€™t quite good enough in standard form, then there are already a great many very effective performance upgrades available, as the features in our special issue will show.
AS WELL AS this special issue of the monthly magazine, and the digital version with extra pictorial content, weâ€™ve also compiled all our previous articles on the Golf 6R and 7R into a digital portfolio that you can download from www.pocketmags.com With 135 pages of exclusive Golf R features, itâ€™s well worth a look!
Traditionally announced on the eve of the Geneva Motor Show Press Day, the European Car of the Year panel last night announced the new Volkswagen Passat as their champion.
The European Car of the Year jury panel is formed of motoring journalists from a host of different European countries, and every year they score the most innovative and outstanding new car to go on sale in the 12 months preceding the date of the title.
The Passat received a total of 340 points, securing it the win by some margin over the second placed CitroÃ«n C4 Cactus which scored 248 points.
The seven nominees and their scoring can be found below:
Volkswagen Passat (340 points) - Winner
CitroÃ«n C4 Cactus (248 points)
Mercedes-Benz C-Class (221 points)
Ford Mondeo (203 points)
Nissan Qashqai (160 points)
BMW 2-Series Active Tourer (154 points)
Renault Twingo (124 points)
Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Member of the Board of Management Volkswagen Brand for the Development Division, received the award for the new Passat: â€œWe are delighted by the honour of â€œCar of the Year 2015â€. This accolade has a very special significance for us because it is awarded by independent international trade journalists. In addition, the honour is known to have a high standing for our customers.â€
Lucky it's a good looking car then, well in my eyes at least, the way the grille bars merge seamlessly into the LED headlights on this concept car is a nice detail. But enough on the styling, you can make your own minds up on that, more about the car.
As the GTE name suggests, this car is equipped with a plug-in hybrid drive train consisting of a petrol 3.0 litre V6 TSI engine and two electric motors. Performance figures are haven't been officially published, but 374bhp is being quoted, delivered through an innovative four wheel drive system which uses an electric prop shaft.
The virtual order books opened online at 12:01 a.m. January 8, and all of the cars were spoken for by 10:30 a.m.
VW confirmed the news on Twitter and has also set up a waiting listâ€”so if you weren't one of the fast and the lucky who managed to reserve a Golf R, it's possible you could still get one if an order falls through.
The first 500 2015 Golf R units will be identical, with Lapiz Blue Metallic paint (pictured), 19-inch Cadiz-style alloy wheels, and the highest level of equipment: they will all come with DCC (dynamic chassis control), navigation, a six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission (a manual will be offered at a later date), and a Fender premium audio system.
Each car in that first batch will also come with an individually-numbered accessories kit consisting of an R-badged watch, a carbon fiber and stainless steel keychain, and a certificate matching the car's VIN....Nice touch!!
The new RS3 has been a hot topic in the news in recent months, and with order books officially opening next month, Audi has finally confirmed the question that everyone has been wanting to know... Pricing in the UK will start at Â£39,950.
It's an interesting pricing point, and with a similarly specified Golf R costing a touch over Â£35k (DSG with Nappa Leather and 19" Pretorias), there isn't a great deal between them.
In case you're not up to date with RS3 news, it will wade into battle with a 2.5 litre five-cylinder turbocharged engine with 367hp and 343lb ft of torque. The seven-speed dual clutch S-Tronic gearbox is standard. For comparison, that is 70hp and 63lb ft up on the Golf R. It also has an extra cylinder, and arguably a more 'performance focused' specification and options list.
Thanks to that options list, very few customers will actually part with Â£39,950 for an RS3. Prices on options have yet to be released, but with sports exhaust systems, carbon-ceramic brakes (a first in this market segment), and of course the standard plethora of MMI and Navigation options being available, I'd imagine most cars will end up being much closer to the Â£50k mark.
With those numbers in mind, the RS3 will will win pretty much every game of Hot Hatch Top Trumps this summer, boasting the most hp, the most torque, an extra cylinder, and a higher price tag over the A45 AMG and Golf R, and it also beats the recently announced 3rd-Generation Focus RS on just about every count too. At least on paper anyway.
Statistics and numbers aside, it will be interesting to see how the cars compare out on the open road. The RS3 should in theory show everything a clean pair of heels, but it will be great to see what provides the most driver thrills.
Even if the RS3 comes out on top, it won't have it all its own way for long. AMG are readying a power upgrade and facelift for the A45, with power expected to be boosted to the 375hp mark. There is even talk of a 'Black-Series Lite' as a swansong for the model, with 400hp allegedly being attainable from its two-litre engine. That might be a couple of years off yet though.
Then of course we have the will-they-won't-they argument over whether or not Volkswagen will proceed with the R400/R420 project. If it does get the official green light, it's likely to cost around the same as the RS3, and will no doubt be the most eagerly awaited back to back comparison for many years.
Either way, the RS3 has made it's play, it's over to the competition. As the title says, let the battle for the 2015 hot hatch crown commence.
Wind the clock back 30 years, and the recipe for a hot hatch was simpleâ€¦ Extra power, subtle body styling changes, a nice set of alloys, drop the suspension, fit some sports seats, and make sure it has three doors.
Three door hatches are iconic, not just in the VW scene but also when it comes to fast Fords and other brands â€“ the XR2, XR3 and even the hot Sierras all looked good with three doors.
Thereâ€™s a reason why three doors were always preferred, the body shells were stiffer than their five door counterparts giving better handling, three door cars were cheaper to make, and letâ€™s be honest, they were better looking.
How times have changed though. Thanks to modern production standards, the three door car no longer offers a major advantage in body stiffness, in fact, drive a modern 3-door back to back with a 5-door and youâ€™d struggle to tell the difference. The same goes for modern estates too, traditionally estate cars used to suffer from a â€˜boomyâ€™ interior, not any more though, theyâ€™re as quiet now as a hatch.
The estate still represents a small percentage of Golf sales. In January Volkswagen sold 3,922 hatchbacks versus just 380 estates. Thatâ€™s a trend it obviously wants to change, and adding performance estate versions are a great way of doing just that.
The unveiling of the Golf R Estate has been the catalyst of great discussion on our forums, but news this week from Volkswagen has confirmed that the GTD will be unveiled at Geneva in Estate form also, going on sale in the UK in April.
Using the same 184 PS TDI engine as the GTD Hatch, it takes the Golf GTD Estate to 62 mph in just 7.9 seconds with the 2.0-litre unit delivering a maximum torque of 380 Nm yet also boasting a combined consumption figure of 64.2 mpg.
So Volkswagen will have the R-Estate, and the GTD Estate. Does this mean they are buttering us up for a GTI Estate? Possibly, yes.
Whether they create a GTI estate or not, the R and GTD variants pose as an interesting option for the car buyer, in that you can now have a car with the performance of the Hot Hatch, in a sensible, practical and understated body shell.
Itâ€™s the understated part that appeals most to me, the Q-Car aspect that slips under the radar.
Itâ€™ll appeal to the family man too. Heâ€™ll be able to justify the new GTD as a sensible diesel (64.2mph) with space for the kids and their clobber, but be able to have fun when heâ€™s on his own. It has worked for sister brand Skoda for years. The Octavia vRS Estate being the thinking Dads wagon of choice, but now he can have a VW should he wish.
The big question is of course; will these new Estates spell the end of the three door Golf? It has for the Focus and the Clio both of which are no longer available in three door form. So is the three door Golf on borrowed time, and will practicality be its executioner?
Letâ€™s hope not, itâ€™s a nice option still to have. But what do you think?
Last Sunday started just like any other. I spent a couple of hours in the office taking care of some paperwork, got a few jobs done at home, saw the family, and with my list of jobs to do steadily shrinking I decided to venture down the local to take in the afternoons footy, and the darts final from Lakeside.
The day ended though somewhat strangely. After the sport had come to a head, I was chatting with a mate about cars (nothing unusual there, we often do). Heâ€™s a petrol head, and as a man who likes small sports cars, recently bought himself a new Boxster S Manual â€“ I approved. Whatâ€™s not to a like about a small mid-engined rear wheel drive six-cylinder Porsche with a manual box? We chatted away, and then he came out with itâ€¦ (Referring to my Golf R)â€¦ â€œThe problem with your car is that it isnâ€™t a hot hatch, itâ€™s a sports car.â€
I jumped on the defensive, â€œof course itâ€™s a hot hatch, itâ€™s got five doors!â€ But I know what he was getting at, and itâ€™s something Iâ€™ve given thought to. When does a hot hatch stop being a hot hatch, and become instead an out and out sports car?
You see, that Boxster S, with its 3.4 litre six-cylinder engine, only musters up 315bhp. Compare that with the 296bhp in the Golf R which is two cylinders and 1400cc down, thatâ€™s not a lot in this day and age. The Golf weighs around 60kg more, but has the benefit of 4-MOTION, all of which means their 0-62 time is identical at 5.1 seconds â€“ comparing like-for-like, manual with manual.
BMW has a go at sticking up a fight for the sports car â€“ the current flagship Z4, the sDrive 35iS M-Sport can scamper to 62 in 4.8 seconds, but itâ€™s only available with the double clutch gearbox, so isn't far ahead of a DSG Golf R at 4.9.
Surely Audi with their all new TT can edge the sports car sector into a clear lead? Well yes, they can. Thanks largely to it using the same MQB platform as the Golf, a 310PS version of the Golf R engine, and elements of aluminium in the body means it weighs 100kg less than a Golf R, the result is 4.9 seconds to 62mph for the manual car â€“ a 0.2s advantage over the Golf.
Hardly a massive margin is there?
Things are going to get harder for the Sports Car too. With the new RS3 confirmed to arrive this summer with a 367bhp five-cylinder engine under the bonnet and a 0-62 acceleration time of 4.3 seconds, the current breed of Sports Cars wonâ€™t see which way it went.
There are more too. Although unconfirmed Mercedes are working on a hotter version of the A45 AMG with nearer 400bhp (think of it as a mini â€˜Black Seriesâ€™) but of course thatâ€™s only in response to the fact that VW are umming and ahing over putting the Golf R400/R420 into production.
So, in an age when you can buy a 5-door hatchback thatâ€™s as fast as, or even faster than a Sports Car, where is the line drawn? Is the Sports Car a dying breed, and are these super-Hot Hatches the new Sports Cars?
Well no. The truth is itâ€™s always been that way, well since the early 80s at least. Thatâ€™s how I should have answered the man in the pub. There have always been quick little cars that can take on the proper sports cars. As a classic car fan, Iâ€™ve watched countless battles between small nimble Austin A40s and Minis, with larger sports cars struggling to keep up.
Hot hatches are the â€˜pocket rocketsâ€™. They are cars that are reasonable to buy and run, and yet deliver a turn of speed that punches well above their weight.
Take the original GTi, the Mk1. Its power to weight ratio of around 135bhp/tonne far eclipsed the Porsche of the day, the 944 with its 2.5L engine, and 127bhp/tonne. Of course, given a long enough runway, the Porsche would win hands down. Autocar back in the day wound one up to 137mph, whereas the Golf would have been out of puff at 110mph. But, stick both cars on a B-Road, and the driver of the Porsche would seriously have his work cut out, and wondering why theyâ€™d paid the extra.
Fast forward to 2015 and the story is the same. The current breed of Hot Hatches, like our Golf R with 296bhp, and the newly face lifted M135i with 326bhp both cost around the same at Â£30/31k, and both share very similar performance figures. Yes, given a long runway, the Porsche Boxster S will stretch out a lead over both, but stick them all on a twisty B-Road, and just like it was back in the 80s, the Porsche driver will wonder why his machine cost Â£16/17k more.
Looking to the future then, what about this new breed of Hot Hatches, the Ãœber Hatches? Well, theyâ€™ll simply compete with the next level of Sports Car.
The new RS3 will show a clean pair of heels to an entry level 911, and instead of a Â£30k Golf R embarrassing a Â£47k Boxster S, we hope to see a Â£40k Golf R400 taking on cars double its price tag.
The Hot Hatch is growing up; the hot hatch is punching further above its weight than ever before.
Welcome everyone to the new hot hatch Golf, and it's electric! Well partly electric because unlike the e-Golf we drove recently, this is a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV).
Up front you have a 1.4 TSI petrol engine producing 150PS and built into the gearbox housing lives a 102PS electric motor. Together, they will produce a maximum output of 204PS and 350Nm of torque (258 lbs ft) - that's some 70Nm more than the Golf R. A six-speed DSG box developed specifically for hybrid vehicles is standard, there's no manual option.
With both power plants running, the GTE can sprint to 62 mph in 7.6 seconds, and head on to a top speed of 138mph - for comparison that's just 0.1s behind the GTD in the dash to '62.
Despite those impressive performance figures, the GTE boasts a combined consumption figure of 166 mpg and CO2 emissions of just 39 g/km. It'll run for 31 miles on pure electric power up to a top speed of 81mph, and with the petrol tank in use as well, a theoretical range of 580 miles should be possible. Like the e-Golf, the GTE is expected to be exempt from VED and the Congestion Charge.
The Golf GTE's battery is much smaller than the e-Golf at 8.8 kWh, so will charge in 3.75 hours from a domestic socket, or 2.25 hours if you have a wallbox.
It looks pretty good too! Available in just the 5-door bodystyle and in one trim level, it combines elements of the e-Golf with elements of GTI. For instance it gets the C-shaped LED running lights from the e-Golf, and where the GTI has red colour accents, the GTE has blue - that includes the stitching on the steering wheel, gear lever gaiter and seats. 18 inch 'Serron' alloys are standard.
The familiar touch screen system is standard with DAB radio and Bluetooth, and if you spec nav it includes bespoke EV features such as the ability to identify known charging points and destinations on your electric range.
The GTE also has an e-manager which allows the driver to preset vehicle charging, as well as interior cooling or heating and these functions can be operated remotely using the Car-Net app on a smartphone; a three-year subscription is standard in the UK. The speedometer and tachometer are familiar, and the latter is supplemented by a power meter in the central display, which shows the status of the battery, whether or not power is being used and the intensity of any regeneration.
So, the big question then? How much is it?
Well the UK RRP is Â£28,035.00 with the Â£5,000 Government grant factored in, which makes it around Â£2000 more than the GTD and Â£1500 more than the GTI.
If you're a regular city dweller however, with the congestion charge and fuel savings that won't take long to balance out, and with a minimal performance sacrifice, I can see the GTE being a popular choice.
I guess the big question is what is it like to drive? Well I can't wait to find out.
The two inventions of the century, the car and the computer, are gradually converging.
This is why Volkswagen is demonstrating â€“ with an entire fleet of vehicles at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas just how much the car and computer are already becoming intertwined today and will continue to grow together in the future.
The main focus is on four aspects. First, computer-driven drive systems. Second, app and smartphone integration. Third, intuitive vehicle operation. Fourth, autonomous and semi-autonomous driving.
Golf R Touch: cockpit concept solves future challenges
Connected Golf: perfect compatibility with MirrorLink, Apple and Google
Intelligent Charge: e-Golf automatically docks above inductive charging plate
Trained Parking: future Park Assist drives into garage semi-automatically
These four cars demonstrate what we can expect in our cars both in the near future, and in years to come. Here's some more information on each car...
Golf R Touch
Volkswagen is equipping its show car in Las Vegas with the controls of tomorrow. The high-performance of its computers, the brilliance of today's displays and the recognition of precise human gestures are merging into a new interface generation here.
In the Golf R Touch concept vehicle, Volkswagen is presenting, for the first time, an infotainment system that incorporates gesture control as a consistent next development step that is based on current thinking in the area of intuitive control. All it takes is a hand movement in the space in front of the infotainment display of the Golf to make human and machine interact as one. Volkswagen is thereby extending touchscreen operation into a third dimension.
Beyond the applications of Volkswagen Car-Net, the Connected Golf is equipped with many other innovations which further connect the Golf with the latest array of portable devices. The press release states that Volkswagen will introduce MirrorLinkâ„¢, CarPlay (Apple) and Android Auto (Google) into vehicles in 2015 - whether that's for US customers or us in Europe we don't yet know.
A new feature, Regular Routes is the name of a function by which the navigation system automatically detects (without needing to be activated by the driver) traffic disturbances on the daily commute to work, and it autonomously suggests an available alternative route.
Parking Guide is another ingenious navigation feature. It embodies a technology that finds parking sites that have a high probability of available parking spaces.
e-Golf Intelligent Charge
You read recently how much we enjoyed driving the e-Golf, well in Las Vegas, Volkswagen is now presenting Intelligent Charge in the e-Golf It illustrates how electric cars will be used even more conveniently in the future. Over the mid-term VW say it will be possible to offer inductive charging as an alternative to cable-based charging. In this type of charging, the car is parked over a charging plate.
In the future, it will be possible to see in just seconds whether the battery is still being charged, or whether it is already fully charged just by looking at the vehicle's exterior lights.
The e-Station Guide will not only assist the electric car drivers in finding a charging station. They will also be informed about their location and charging equipment as well as payment options.
e-Golf Perfect Parking
We're all familiar with Park Assist, well at CES, Volkswagen is now introducing an advanced evolutionary stage of Park Assist known as Trained Parking.
Here the car (an e-Golf) uses a camera â€“ mounted in the base of the rear-view mirror â€“ to scan a frequently used path into a parking space, and from then on the parking process is executed semi-automatically and highly precisely by sensors and computer.
In the future, it will of course also be possible to semi-automatically park above a station for inductive charging. In another evolutionary stage, plans call for the driver no longer needing to stay in the car during parking. The driver would just monitor the operation of parking or exiting a parking space with a smartphone as a "remote control" device.